Ah, Halloween, that magical season of the unexpected, when the out-of-the-ordinary waits around every bend, when all the wonder you wish for may be realized!
Or something. All I know is, like many adults, I’ve never outgrown my enthusiasm for it. And while I have adjusted my expectations to the extent that I no longer fully expect to see ol’ lady Liptrap take to the sky on a broom, I have to acknowledge some mysterious happenings at this time of year.
Growing up, I viewed every horror and sci-fi film I could, and was fortunate to have two highly entertaining TV horror film hosts within our reception range—Svengoolie (followed by, what else, Son of Svengoolie, in later years) and Nightmare Theatre MC, Sammy Terry. I’m not sure what he was supposed to be, but Sven resembled nothing so much as Mad Dogs and Englishmen-era Leon Russell with an extreme motel tan. Sammy dressed as a sort of unspecified ghoul with Dracula aspirations, and yellow latex gloves. His corny humor and booming baritone voice made even The Navy Versus the Night Monsters enjoyable.
When he got hold of fare like Bucket of Blood or Horror of Party Beach, it was great entertainment, and my ongoing affection for those films, and their like, is largely due to having Sammy Terry introduce me to them.
Flash forward to a few years ago, a spectacular October Saturday, and we’re in the scenic hills of southern Indiana, visiting one of our sons at college. The local library is having a sale, and I pick up a stack of LP’s for 25 cents apiece, including a sealed copy of Best of Mancini, which includes the chilling “Experiment in Terror” that had been used (along with Link Wray’s “Rumble”) as theme music for Sammy Terry’s late night TV show.
We later went to the artists’ colony of Nashville, Indiana, with no specific plans. Wandering around the cluster of galleries and shops, we came across a line of people waiting to see, in a rare public appearance, Sammy Terry. An appearance we’d known nothing about!
Imagine stumbling across an autograph session with one of the formative figures of your youth, in the first place, and having an album of “his” theme music with you.
Sammy is now in his 70s and apparently hard of hearing, so his assistant had some difficulty explaining why I was asking him to sign a Mancini album. But once he got it, he was happy to sign, and was as gracious, and corny, as I could have hoped.
He even posed for this photo with me:
(I’m on the left. Ha!)
So whenever friends ridicule you for feeling a little magic in the air this Halloween, show them this photo, and remind them that, if you wish hard enough, perhaps you, too, can be choked by a childhood hero!